- Police in Paris have discovered a fully equipped cinema-cum-restaurant
in a large and previously uncharted cavern underneath the capital's chic
- Officers admit they are at a loss to know who built or
used one of Paris's most intriguing recent discoveries.
- "We have no idea whatsoever," a police spokesman
- "There were two swastikas painted on the ceiling,
but also celtic crosses and several stars of David, so we don't think it's
extremists. Some sect or secret society, maybe. There are any number of
- Members of the force's sports squad, responsible - among
other tasks - for policing the 170 miles of tunnels, caves, galleries and
catacombs that underlie large parts of Paris, stumbled on the complex while
on a training exercise beneath the Palais de Chaillot, across the Seine
from the Eiffel Tower.
- After entering the network through a drain next to the
Trocadero, the officers came across a tarpaulin marked: Building site,
- Behind that, a tunnel held a desk and a closed-circuit
TV camera set to automatically record images of anyone passing. The mechanism
also triggered a tape of dogs barking, "clearly designed to frighten
people off," the spokesman said.
- Further along, the tunnel opened into a vast 400 sq metre
cave some 18m underground, "like an underground amphitheatre, with
terraces cut into the rock and chairs".
- There the police found a full-sized cinema screen, projection
equipment, and tapes of a wide variety of films, including 1950s film noir
classics and more recent thrillers. None of the films were banned or even
offensive, the spokesman said.
- A smaller cave next door had been turned into an informal
restaurant and bar. "There were bottles of whisky and other spirits
behind a bar, tables and chairs, a pressure-cooker for making couscous,"
the spokesman said.
- "The whole thing ran off a professionally installed
electricity system and there were at least three phone lines down there."
- Three days later, when the police returned accompanied
by experts from the French electricity board to see where the power was
coming from, the phone and electricity lines had been cut and a note was
lying in the middle of the floor: "Do not," it said, "try
to find us."
- The miles of tunnels and catacombs underlying Paris are
essentially former quarries, dating from Roman times, from which much of
the stone was dug to build the city.
- Today, visitors can take guided tours around a tightly
restricted section, Les Catacombes, where the remains of up to six million
Parisians were transferred from overcrowded cemeteries in the late 1700s.
- But since 1955, for security reasons, it has been an
offence to "penetrate into or circulate within" the rest of the
- There exist, however, several secretive bands of so-called
cataphiles, who gain access to the tunnels mainly after dark, through drains
and ventilation shafts, and hold what in the popular imagination have become
drunken orgies but are, by all accounts, innocent underground picnics.
- The recent discovery of three newly enlarged tunnels
underneath the capital's high-security La SantÈ prison was put down
to the activities of one such group, and another, iden tifying itself as
the Perforating Mexicans, last night told French radio the subterranean
cinema was its work.
- Patrick Alk, a photographer who has published a book
on the urban underground exploration movement and claims to be close to
the group, told RTL radio the cavern's discovery was "a shame, but
not the end of the world". There were "a dozen more where that
one came from," he said.
- "You guys have no idea what's down there."
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